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NBA Board of Governors approves competitive format to restart 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play – NBA CA



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NEW YORK, June 4, 2020 – The NBA Board of Governors today approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play and a tentative start date of Friday, July 31. The Board’s approval is the first formal step among many required to resume the season.

The NBA is working to finalize a comprehensive season restart plan with the National Basketball Players Association. The NBA and the NBPA are working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish a rigorous program to prevent and mitigate the risk related to COVID-19, including a regular testing protocol and stringent safety practices. The season restart is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.

Based on the competitive format that the NBA Board of Governors approved today, the 22 returning teams would be the 16 teams (eight per conference) in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences. Those two groups comprise teams with the NBA’s 22 best records.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”

The season restart would begin with eight “seeding games” for each returning team and include the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth and final playoff seed in each conference depending on combined records across regular-season games and seeding games. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12. (See below for the list of returning teams and additional details.)

If, as tentatively scheduled, the season resumes on July 31, then the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery would be rescheduled for Aug. 25, the 2020 NBA Draft would be held on Oct. 15 and the 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs. These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11. The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.

NBA Season Restart: Competitive Format Plan

The 22 returning teams for the season restart would be the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference.

Each returning team would play eight seeding games, as selected from its remaining regular-season matchups. At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the best combined records across regular-season games and seeding games would qualify for the playoffs.

If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best record would earn the eighth playoff seed.

If the team with the eighth-best combined record in its conference (Team A) is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined record in the same conference (Team B), then Teams A and B would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed. To earn the eighth playoff seed, Team A would need to defeat Team B once and Team B would need to defeat Team A two games in a row.

The 2019-20 season would conclude with a traditional playoff format with best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and the NBA Finals.

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Blue Jays Heading To Toronto For Summer Camp – MLB Trade Rumors



The Blue Jays have received authorization to hold Summer Camp in Toronto. Shi Davidi of first reported the news on Twitter; his colleague Ben Nicholson-Smith has further details (Twitter link). They broke things down in a chat with Hazel Mae (video link).

This was the anticipated outcome, but it didn’t come easily. The relevant Canadian authorities waited until the last moment to give the nod of approval to a quarantine plan that the team will utilize.

For the July training period, the Jays will only bring players that have tested negative for COVID-19 infection. The whole team and key personnel is presently gathered at the organization’s spring facility in Dunedin, Florida.

Once the club is brought by charter up to Toronto, it’ll be limited to Rogers Centre grounds. They’ll stay in the adjacent hotel, with food and other necessities brought into the facility. In addition to regular testing of players and personnel, they’ll be isolated even from hotel staff to the extent possible.

As the Sportsnet crew discusses, this is in many respects a dry run for the forthcoming regular season. The Jays are hoping to utilize their usual home park to host games, but convincing the relevant authorities that it’s wise could represent a significant challenge. That would require comfort with the idea of the Blue Jays and their competitors criss-crossing the border.

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Ryan Kesler chirps Oilers fans after ripping Edmonton | Offside – Daily Hive



Ryan Kesler hasn’t played an NHL game in over a year, but his chirping is in mid-season form.

Playing over a thousand games in the NHL with the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks, needless to say he’s not a fan favourite in Edmonton.

Following news that Toronto and Edmonton will be named NHL hub cities, Kesler took aim at the Alberta capital.

Oilers fans fought back hard, while Canucks fans applauded the troll job. Either way, it was mission accomplished for the legendary agitator.

Edmonton was the butt of a few jokes recently following Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s promo video aimed at luring the NHL.

But Edmonton looks like it’ll get the last laugh. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that not only will Edmonton be one of the two hub cities, and is set to host the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final too.

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What to expect from the Blue Jays’ training camp in Toronto –



At last, the Toronto Blue Jays know where the club will be holding training camp. Great. Now all that’s left to determine is who will be at Rogers Centre next week, what an abbreviated three-week camp will entail, where the club will play its home games this season, what its schedule looks like, and how it’ll handle any COVID-19 related absences.

As was always going to be the case when trying to play baseball during a global pandemic, there are more questions than answers. But we do have some information as to how the Blue Jays will proceed from here. And what the build-up to the strangest season anyone has ever seen will look like.

When will training camp start? What will it entail?

Toronto’s training camp has technically already begun. A small group of Blue Jays players who have cleared MLB’s intake protocol and produced two negative COVID-19 tests are currently free to use club facilities in Dunedin, Fla, where the team has gathered.

But many of their teammates are still waiting for clearance. While MLB only requires one negative COVID-19 test as part of its intake protocol, all Blue Jays players must pass two before they’re permitted to enter training camp. That extra step was necessary in order to satisfy public health concerns from the Canadian government. And all that testing takes time.

But the club expects the majority of tests to be returned by the weekend, at which point the club will fly to Toronto on a private charter. That plane will arrive at a private extension of Pearson International Airport, where players and staff will disembark and travel directly to Rogers Centre on private buses that have been cleaned to standards set forth by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Once players are on-site at Rogers Centre, more formal, organized workouts will begin. Those will be staggered throughout the day in order to encourage physical distancing, with players broken up into groups.

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High-touch surfaces — door knobs, faucets, dials, handles — will be disinfected hourly, and all areas will be thoroughly cleaned daily. The club will utilize four different locker rooms in order to distance players, with every other washroom sink taped off and communal toiletries removed.

Hitters will have access to both the home and visitors batting cages, while pitchers will be spread across five different mounds — the game mound plus the pair in each outfield bullpen. The Blue Jays have explored the possibility of adding temporary mounds, but club President Mark Shapiro said the team was leaning against it.

“I think we’ll have the capability of getting our work in,” he said. “Particularly looking at us not working out as one group of 60 players, but as two groups of 25-30 players.”

Throughout training camp, all players and personnel will live at the hotel connected to Rogers Centre within a dedicated room block isolated from the general public. Hotel staff will wear masks and undergo daily health assessments and temperature screenings prior to their shifts.

Players and staff will not be permitted to leave the premises during training camp, travelling between their rooms and the ballpark within the stadium’s boundary. This will obviously require a high degree of discretion and discipline. But if someone was caught leaving the stadium, they could potentially be punished under Canada’s Quarantine Act, which can carry six-figure fines or imprisonment.

That alone ought to be dissuasion enough to ensure no one within the Blue Jays party violates training camp rules. And Shapiro says he and Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins have been encouraged by the feedback they’ve received from players during consultations as they worked to move training camp north of the border.

“They were part of the process. We did not unilaterally make the decision. We made the decision with them,” Shapiro said of Blue Jays players. “It was collaborative and cooperative from the start. They’ve been educated. There are clear penalties in place beyond anything we would do for a violation of a quarantine — which have been communicated to them. But I don’t expect those to be an issue because we’ve been talking to them from day one and they understand their responsibility and the expectations coming in.

Will the Blue Jays play any exhibition games against other MLB clubs?

MLB has permitted clubs to play up to three exhibition games towards the end of training camps against nearby teams or its first opponent of the regular season. But Shapiro said the Blue Jays will forego that option, instead relying on intrasquad games played within Toronto’s player pool. There is no limit on the number of intrasquad games a team can play during training camp.

Shaprio also said MLB is closing in on setting its schedule for the 2020 season, and that the Blue Jays would adhere to it regardless of where the club’s home is. Toronto’s primary options for its home games remain the Rogers Centre in Toronto and TD Ballpark in Dunedin, two facilities the club owns, eliminating the possibility of any scheduling conflicts. But as of now, the location of Toronto’s home schedule is TBD.

Will any Blue Jays player or staff opt-out?

So far, five MLB players have chosen to opt-out of the 2020 season: Mike Leake, Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross, Tyson Ross, and Ian Desmond. Last week, Shapiro indicated he didn’t expect any Blue Jays to exercise their right to do so, and on Thursday he said that expectation remains the same.

Of course, things can change as training camp wears on and the pandemic evolves. There is also the potential of staff opting out, as some members of Cleveland’s organization have chosen to do. But Shapiro said he wasn’t currently expecting any opt-outs among Blue Jays staff, either.

Writers Bloc

The Blue Jays will have a ball when they get on the field at Rogers Centre

July 02 2020

How will positive COVID-19 tests be handled?

MLB’s 2020 Operations Manual introduced a new term into baseball’s large lexicon: the COVID-19 Related Injured List.

A positive test for COVID-19 would obviously necessitate placement on that list — but one is not necessarily required. Players can also be placed on the COVID-19 Related IL due to exhibiting symptoms associated with the virus or having confirmed exposure it.

There is no minimum or maximum length of placement on the list. But in order to be removed from it individuals must produce two consecutive negatives tests at least 24 hours apart, be without fever and respiratory symptoms for 72 hours, complete an antibody test, undergo a cardiac evaluation, and be deemed by a committee of physicians as no longer presenting a risk of infection to others.

With nearly 2,000 players being tested this week during the intake process for training camps across the league, it’s fair to expect a large number of individuals will be placed on the list. Last week, when the NBA tested 344 of its players, 25 returned positive — a 7.3 per cent infection rate. It’s not unreasonable to anticipate a similar number across MLB.

Where things get tricky is in how these cases are reported. As New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman outlined earlier this week, teams have not been permitted to disclose which players are on the COVID-19 Related IL because Infections are not “employment-related” as outlined in MLB’s Basic Agreement. It will be up to individual players who test positive to approve whether that information is made public or not.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

But the flaw in this design — which surely someone, somewhere identified as MLB was conceptualizing its 2020 Operations Manual — is that clubs are still announcing all players who are placed on an injured list in order to free up roster space. Thursday, the Blue Jays official transactions page showed four players being placed on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to June 30) without explanation: Jonathan Davis, Brandon Drury, Elvis Luciano, and Hector Perez.

In turn, Toronto added four individuals to its player pool: Bryan Baker, Patrick Kivlehan, Josh Palacios, and Breyvic Valera, who was claimed off waivers from the San Diego Padres. Toronto’s player pool, which is capped at 60, stood at 58 prior to those transactions. So, at least two spots were opened. And aside from placement on the COVID-19 Injured List, the only way to remove a player and create room in the pool — according to the 2020 Operations Manual — is as follows:

For 40-man roster players: trade, waiver claim, return of Rule 5 selection, release, outright assignment, designation for assignment, placement on the 60-day injured list, or placement on one of the suspended, military, voluntarily retired, restricted, disqualified, or ineligible lists.

For non-40-man roster players: trade, release, or placement on the military, voluntarily retired, restricted, disqualified, or ineligible list.

Considering none of the Blue Jays players who went on the injured list Thursday were subject to any of the transactions above, it’s fair to speculate that at least two of them were placed on the COVID-19 Related IL, if not all four. (It’s worth reiterating that placement on the COVID-19 Related IL does not require a positive test.)

A similar scenario played out in Philadelphia on Thursday, in which four players popped up on the Phillies official transactions page as being placed on the 10-day injured without explanation. It was later reported that all four were placed on the COVID-19 Related IL.

One imagines situations like this will continue to arise throughout the season, as some players are placed on the injured list or unavailable to compete for explained reasons such as broken bones or muscle strains and some are not. And that raises the question as to whether MLB’s attempt to protect the privacy of its players is actually doing the complete opposite.

Asked to comment Thursday on the inevitable speculation over unexplained absences, Shapiro pointed to the challenges of operating a professional baseball league during a global pandemic. The club will do everything it can to protect the privacy of its players. But it also has to play by MLB’s roster rules.

“It’s a challenging environment. Not just for the media, not just for our fans, not just for our players, but for us as well,” Shapiro said. “Privacy and respecting the privacy of our players and understanding regulations and laws that exist is going to govern my no comment on that. I think over time players are going to be capable of commenting for themselves.

“Until then, those are going to be things that are going to have to be one more piece of a world that we’re living in that is full of uncertainty — and I can’t help you any more than that. Obviously, I’ve dealt with a sea of uncertainty for the last two-and-a-half months and that’s just one more piece that we’re all dealing with.”

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